Oklahoma is home to many things: white-tailed deer, bullfrogs, turkeys, but alligators? It’s true: a tiny part of Oklahoma plays host to the semi-aquatic reptile known as the American alligator. But, just how many alligators live in Oklahoma? There are only two species of alligator in the world; the American alligator, and the Chinese alligator. Chinese alligators are critically endangered and face a very real threat of extinction. American alligators, on the other hand, have experienced an incredible resurgence in the past six decades due to federal protection of the species.
Keep reading to learn more about just how many alligators live in Oklahoma. Along the way, we’ll discover what gators look like, and where you might expect to find them. We’ll find out exactly where in Oklahoma these creatures live, and how to stay safe around them. Finally, we’ll explore the most alligator-infested places in the United States.
Species Profile: Alligator
As crocodilians, alligators are some of the largest reptiles on the planet. They live only in North America, where people hunt and farm them for their meat, bones, and hides.
Range and Habitat
American alligators live only in the southeastern United States. Their range spreads as far north as coastal North Carolina, and as far west as Texas’s Rio Grande River. As semi-aquatic reptiles, alligators spend their lives in or near sources of fresh water. These might include lakes, rivers, wetlands, and even golf course ponds and irrigation ditches.
Size and Appearance
Famous for their scaly hides and large, tooth-filled mouths, alligators grow up to 15 feet long. Most don’t get over 14 feet long though. Adults are black and green, with short legs and long, powerful tails. Baby alligators are lighter-colored versions of the adults, with bright yellow stripes on their tails.
Alligators aren’t quite as big as the monstrous saltwater and Nile crocodiles, but they’re relatively easy to distinguish. Alligators have broad, “U” shaped snouts. And, when they close their mouths, only their top teeth remain visible. Additionally, because of their watery lifestyle, alligators’ eyes, ears, and noses are located on top of their heads.
Oklahoma’s Alligator Population
So, how many alligators live in Oklahoma? Well, Oklahoma has the smallest alligator population out of all the alligator-containing states. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, an estimated 100-200 alligators live in Oklahoma. Considering the fact that there are millions of alligators living in the United States, Oklahoma’s tiny alligator population is all the more special.
Where Do Alligators Mostly Live in Oklahoma?
Much of Oklahoma is unsuitable for alligators, which require a permanent source of water. They also require plenty of game, like fish, turtles, and small mammals, to eat. So, just where in Oklahoma can you find these prehistoric hunters?
Alligators can be found only in the extreme southeastern corner of Oklahoma. Here, they’re present in the Little River National Wildlife Refuge and the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area. McCurtain and Choctaw Counties have the densest populations of alligators in the state, though a few other counties also contain gators.
Which State Has the Most Alligators?
Alligators are truly ancient predators; they’ve been around for over 60 million years, with little change in all that time. But, which state has the highest population of alligators? That honor belongs to Louisiana, with an estimated two million alligators. With its millions of acres of swamps and wetlands, Louisiana is the perfect home for gators.
But, let’s not forget about the state with the second-highest number of alligators: Florida. Florida is home to an estimated 1.3 million gators, all of which live in the state’s freshwater lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
Alligators: Apex Predators
If you’re wondering how many alligators live in Oklahoma, then you probably want to know whether or not these scaly beasts pose a danger. Adult alligators are opportunistic predators, and, they’re apex predators. This means that, yes, alligators pose a danger to humans, and their pets.
Though there have been no alligator attacks in Oklahoma, attacks in other states have been on an upward trend in recent years. That’s why, whenever you’re in alligator territory, it’s important to remember a few alligator safety rules.
How to Stay Safe Around Alligators
Alligator safety starts with respect: alligators are dangerous wild animals, and should never be approached or harassed in any way. Never feed an alligator, and never approach a nest. Typically, it’s best to stay at least ten feet back from any source of water known to house adult gators. This includes both pets and children. Further, pets should always be kept on a leash when hiking or recreating in an alligator habitat. Finally, think twice about taking a dip if adult alligators are known to live in the area.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Peter Aronson/Shutterstock.com
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- , Available here: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/species/detail/american-alligator#:~:text=Louisiana%20and%20Florida%20have%20the,common%20in%20our%20coastal%20marshes
- , Available here: https://www.wildlifedepartment.com/wildlife/field-guide/reptiles/american-alligator
- , Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/alligator